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PragmatismPRAGMATISM-LEARNING BY DOINGIntroduction Of all educational philosophies being practised and studied worldwide,pragmatism is the only one that originated in North America (Barbules andBiestan.d.). This is an educational philosophy that stresses on „learning by doing‟.Pragmatism as an educational philosophy was the result of the work of scholarswhose work spanned throughout the late 19th century all the way to the twentiethcentury. They includeJohn Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Auguste Comte,Charles Darwin, Charles Sanders Pierce(1839–1914),William James and JamesDewey (1859-1952). This philosophy came to become the United States‟ traditional method ofteaching. It has several learning configurations and arrangements that assign theinstructors and learners with specific roles. These arrangements found inpragmatism are all geared towards preparing the students for the real world byproviding them with adequate problem solving skills so that they can be competent inthe dynamic world that awaits them after school (Educational Philosophy, n.d.). Features of pragmatism Pragmatism advocates for the unification of theory and practice. This is to saythat in a pragmatic education system, the theories being taught by the instructorsshould be demonstrated practically so as to enhance the student‟s learningexperience (Ozmoh, 2004). This philosophy proposes that scientific methods should be employed in thesolutions of people‟s problems. This is to say that when dealing with challenges,
Pragmatismsolving of problems needs to be based on actual facts rather than myths or otherrudimentary approaches (Bohac et al n.d.). In my opinion, an education system thatis based on pragmatism has democracy as one of its features. This is to say thatthere are no absolutes so to say in the learning process.In pragmatism, change isthe essence of reality. This is also known as progressivism. Progressivism Progressivism is based on a school of thought that describes the ideallearning environment in which pragmatism is being applied. Progressivism has sixkey assertions that are used to ensure the education process meets first andforemost the needs of the learner. What sets pragmatism apart from othereducational philosophies is the fact that it supports the use of modern scientificmethods in the development of philosophies. Under progressivism, education should not just be looked at as preparationfor life. Education is actually life. This means that learning experiences need to betailored according to real life experiences such that even after a learner is out ofschool, he or she continues with the learning process that was started in theclassroom. What this means is that finishing a stage of education, say university,should not be seen as an end to learning. It should just be a seamless transition inwhich the environment changes but the process continues. The learning process should be tailored to the learner‟s interests. Aneducation system needs to have in it content that will meet the needs of the learner.At times the education system in place is usually designed in such a manner thatmeets the needs of the school and the teacher. Such a system denies the learner apiece of the cake.
Pragmatism Thirdly, progressivism also states that real learning occurs through problem-solving. An education system should be designed in a way that develops thelearner‟s cognitive skills by enabling him or her to effectively manage the challengesthat come up along the way. This way, the learner not only acquires knowledge butalso experience while (s) he is being educated. In a progressive education system, the teacher‟s primary role is first to adviseand not to direct. This does not nullify the importance of the teacher‟s knowledge.What it means is that the teacher should use his/her knowledge and experience toskillfully guide the learner through the learning process. Progressivism prescribes that schools should encourage cooperation ratherthan competition. The learners in the academic institution should be taught the valueof working together rather than competing against each other. Competition howevercan be encouraged if the end result is personal growth for those involved. I believe that for personal growth to take place unhindered, democracy needsto be appreciated and embraced. The democracy in this context is not that of politics.It refers to a learning environment in which learners are allowed to express andshare their personal views on various subjects. What this does is that it dispelsmisconceptions while at the same time exposing both the learner and the instructorto new ideas. Should pragmatism be used in North America? Pragmatism is the most appropriate education philosophy that can be used inNorth America. This is because it reflects the diverse demographic found in thisregion. The reason Pragmatism is the best method for this region is the fact that it is
Pragmatismstudent-centered in its design. The most important attribute of pragmatism thatcomes into play at this point in time is the democracy found within it. What thisdemocracy does is that it places limitations to absolutes when it comes to thelearning process. This flexibility ensures that learners, regardless of their ethnic or religiousbackground can interact with each other and with their teachers in a condusiveenvironment that enables him or her to learn. The dynamic nature of the NorthAmerican society;whetherin a cultural sense, technological sense or economic sensedemands a lot of the public. It requires a lot of adaptation to quickly changingsituations. People are forced to learn quickly about their environments and masterthem so as to survive. Pragmatism ensures that this level of competence is offeredto the learners from an early stage (Kasl and Yorks, 2002). What do teachers do when pragmatism is in practice? First of all, the teachers teach what should be taught but unlike othereducation systems, the method of teaching is not prescribed. What this does is that itprovides the teacher with liberty to decide on the teaching method (s) is mostappropriate for the class being taught (Alexander, 2002). The teachers also decide which aspect of the subject will be studied in depth.This means that emphasis is laid on what is important rather than overburden thelearners with information that they can‟t apply outside of the classroom. The teachers are also given an opportunity to interact with the learners on thesame platform thus improving their relationship and appreciation for each other. Thisprovided room for the motivation of the learners by their teachers and this can
Pragmatismgreatly improve academic performance as well as the overall development of thelearners. In a world where social inequalities are a glaring issue, pragmatism in theeducation system can be used to bridge the socio-economic gaps that exist insociety. This is because a student tailored system such as this will first of allempower those who come from less fortunate background to uplift themselves.Other than that it will enable those who are in advantaged positions to ultimatelyunderstand the plight of the less fortunate. The short-term effect of this isopportunities for all while the long term view of this is a fair and just society where noone takes advantage of the other‟s literacy, economic situation or any othermisfortune.Conclusion As the ancient proverb goes, “experience is the best teacher” so do theproponents of pragmatism say, “the best way to learn is by doing.” As seen above,this philosophy supports a system of education whereby learner involvement is seenas the most important factor in education. This definitive characteristic is what sets itapart from other models of education. An anonymous comedian once joked that alecture is the process by which notes are passed from the professor‟s notebook tothe students‟ notebooks without passing through either‟s brain. Perhaps pragmatismis the solution to the said system.
PragmatismReferencesAlexander R. (2002) Still no pedagogy? Principle, pragmatism and compliance in primary education.Cambridge Journal of Education, Vol. 34. (1)Barbules C and Biesta G. (n.d.) Pragmatism and Educational Research .Rownan and Littlefield.Bohac P , Glover F, Berger J and Welch B. (n.d.) Chapter 4 Pragmatism and Education. Retrieved from http://www.brendawelch.com/uwf/Chapter%204.ppt Accessed on February 15 2012.Educational Philosophy (n.d.) Educationalphilosophy.Retrieved from http://wed.siu.edu/faculty/BPutnam/584/Philosophy.ppt. Accessed on February 15 2012Kasl E. and Yorks L. (2002) Towarda Theory and Practice for Whole-Person Learning: Reconceptualising Experience andthe Role of Affect. Adult education quarterly, vol. 52 (3) 176-192Ozmon H. (2004) Philosophical foundations of education 9th Edition